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A smart marketing strategy is essential if you want to grow your app’s user base, so here are the top app marketing tactics you need to deploy. In this article, we discuss the top 35 most effective tactics for app marketing.
Before jumping into tactics, you need to nail the basics of app marketing ー prioritization and efficiency. The Pareto Principle, more commonly known as the 80/20 rule, states that 20% of what you do creates 80% of your results. It's important to keep this in mind when designing your marketing strategy, because there are so many tactics to choose from that it's easy to become sidetracked and focus on the wrong ones.
Dwight Eisenhower created what’s known as “The Eisenhower Box” to stay efficient and focus on what’s most critical. We recommend that you write any tactics you want to use into one of these four boxes so you can prioritize what’s important, because as an entrepreneur, time is your most precious resource.
These 35 app marketing tactics will give you a great foundation on which you can construct additional, targeted campaigns as your budget allows. Try as many of these tactics as you want, and make sure you regularly check your download count so you can identify which strategies are most effective.
If you are trying to win over the mass market with your app, brand awareness is crucial. One great way to increase brand awareness is to give away branded items for free. What you give out depends on your app; the only criteria you need is that the offered items are something your target audience will use regularly.
A great example of this tactic is Yik Yak's guerilla marketing strategy. Yik Yak saw explosive growth rivaling that of Facebook during their early days. Their primary growth tactic was to attend college fraternity parties and give away t-shirts, sunglasses, shot glasses, cupholders, and more. They have a very recognizable logo that helped them get the most out of the free items they gave out.
If done right, the launch of your app can kickstart your entire growth trajectory. A great way to make a lot of people (30-100+) aware of your app is by throwing a launch party. Here are a few tips on how to make your launch party a success.
App Partner’s Top 5 Launch Party Tips
BONUS: Scale your party planning efforts if it works! If your party was a success and you saw an uplift in active users, you can always repeat this process and throw more live events.
If your app caters to Millennials, especially those in the 17-25-year-old age group, consider hiring college brand ambassadors. Brand ambassadors are another great way to get word of mouth referrals.
Brand ambassadors are typically college students who share your app with their friends and acquaintances. When that promotion is coming from someone trusted, people are more likely to download and try out the app themselves.
Read our in-depth guide on how to get the most out of your brand ambassadors here.
If you search for app marketing tactics, some blogs will talk about how you can use QR codes to drive app downloads. QR codes did have potential at one point. They were a great way for people on their phones to find more information about a physical ad they were interested in. Unfortunately, few people scan QR codes today because very few people have a QR code scanner on their phone.
A couple of weeks ago, Snapchat launched a new feature that lets you connect any URL to a Snapcode. They work exactly like a QR code but open up a website inside Snapchat. Snapcodes will most likely perform better than QR codes because so many people already have the Snapchat app.
You can connect an App Store link to a Snapcode, which will redirect people to your app when scanned. You can print your Snapcode on physical marketing materials as a "physical hyperlink" to your app.
It's crucial for companies to be transparent and convey a story about their business. The most successful companies create personal relationships with all of their customers. The first step to doing this is by creating a personal brand for yourself! This will benefit you for your entire life, giving you the leverage, connections, and authority to succeed in any business you embark on.
Neil Patel, the master of personal branding, has been able to launch and grow three separate businesses each worth over 10 million dollars. He goes in depth here on how to build a personal brand. One of the greatest influencers and experts on personal branding, Gary Vaynerchuk, also recorded a video about how to create a personal brand from scratch. Check it out:
Hubspot has completely changed the world of internet marketing over the past 15 years. They even started a revolution called inbound marketing. A major part of inbound marketing involves creating a blog and writing helpful content about your industry in order to attract qualified customers to your site and offer them your products. If you can create value with your blog and with your product, you can automate and scale your app download volume.
Noah Kagan led the personal finance app Mint to achieve explosive growth. With the assistance of a great product, he was able to grow the app's user base to 1.5 million users in under two years. This can be attributed to writing quality blog posts and distributing that content across the web. You can check out a PDF of Mint’s original marketing plan here.
Tip: Some app startups aren't well-suited for a blog. If you’re a social app, a blog may not be the best channel for you because you aren't solving a niche need. However, lifestyle, productivity, finance, and other apps that do solve a specific consumer need may benefit greatly from a blog.
Pro tip: Noah Kagan’s latest venture SumoMe offers some great free web apps that let you get more engagement and virality from your blog. They're used all over the web and are recommended for entrepreneurs.
Creating a great blog and inbound web presence is only half the battle. The next step is converting those blog readers to email subscribers. Email is a great marketing channel where people can opt in to receive content and promotions of your product. In fact, companies that succeed at email marketing receive 80% more sales for 33% less cost than those that don’t.
Noah Kagan, mentioned above, has also written a guide on building your email list. You can check it out here.
The crowdfunding platform Kickstarter allows startup founders and entrepreneurs to raise funds for their projects while simultaneously gaining brand awareness. A successful Kickstarter campaign won’t just give you more funding; it will allow you to release your product early and build a following eager for your launch.
Tim Ferriss wrote a great post about how you can run a successful Kickstarter campaign with the use of low-cost virtual assistants from overseas. You can check it out here.
Product Hunt is an invite-only product discovery platform. It’s a place to discover new products and share your product or app. It’s gained so much traction that many people are calling it the new TechCrunch. To get invited to Product Hunt, you need to either be active on Twitter by retweeting their new products and engaging with their community, or know a current Product Hunt member.
Check out how Gerry Giacoman Colyer grew his user base by 10k just by launching on Product Hunt here.
Your app’s landing page is where almost all of your web traffic goes, so having a visually stunning landing page is crucial. All of your desktop web traffic and many of your paid ad campaigns will direct traffic to this landing page, and it will be much easier to convert that traffic into downloads if your landing page is visually appealing with solid copywriting.
Squarespace is a great web design and deployment platform for small businesses and startups. They make the process of making a website or landing page simple and offer beautiful templates.
Tip: Add Intercom to your landing page so you can talk with your traffic in real-time! This will give you the ability to manually move people closer to downloading your app. They also offer startups a great $50/month package where you can use all of their services that cost more for larger companies.
Source: Jelly App
92% of mobile video consumers share videos with others. Social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined. You can leverage this powerful social phenomenon by making your own app promo video!
High-quality app videos like the one above can cost a lot of money, but if you don’t have the budget you can use a site like Fiverr to find freelancers that make low-fidelity app promo videos that display screenshots and features of your app. Your app promo video doesn’t have to be as long as the one featured above either. Houseparty has a 15-second GIF on their site that is great at demonstrating the value of their app.
Tip: If you promote your video through Facebook (see tactic 17) you can retarget those video views with follow-up ads to convert people who watched the video into actual users.
While Twitter advertising isn't always a great investment, you can reach out for free to others tweeting about your niche. If you can find relevant hashtags or keywords, you can search for people talking about those topics and reply to them offering your product or service.
With this tactic, it is crucial to make sure your product pitch is adding value to this person's life. You can harm your brand image if you spam people with links that are not helpful to them. LeadSift has created a great infographic outlining the best ways to go about this.
YouTube Influencers are now some of the most influential people on earth, bypassing traditional celebrities and even many TV networks. Youtubers offer both indirect and direct product placements, where they either mention your brand in passing or actively review it, respectively.
Be creative when you reach out to influencers, because they receive hundreds of product placement requests every day. For example, Quest Nutrition knew how large the reach of YouTube star Jenna Marbles is, so they made two custom sweaters for her dogs and sent her a large box of their bars. Needless to say, they got the placements they were looking for.
Giveaways are a great way to get a high volume of engagement, emails, and page likes for your brand. For example, if your product is a social app for basketball fans, you could offer five basketball tickets, and then choose five winners out of everyone eho completes the offer. By doing this, you could potentially get thousands of page likes or emails for cheap.
The key to getting positive returns from these giveaways is to pick a prize that's very specific to your app's target audience (i.e., basketball tickets for a basketball social app). If you were to offer five iPhones instead, you might get a much higher volume of people that complete the offer, but the number of people that would actually be interested in your app would likely be much lower.
Jeff Bulas goes further into his step by step process for creating these campaigns here.
Studies show that visual appeal matters in 93% of cases when people go to make a purchase, and Instagram is a phenomenal way to take advantage of this. Be careful with Instagram, however: if you do well, it can be a huge boost to your growth, but if not, you can potentially harm your brand image. Follow these three rules when posting on Instagram:
Houseparty’s Instagram account is an example of a successful and engaging strategy. They use the red cup from their logo as a recognizable symbol for their app, but all of the actual pictures are appealing and relatable to their target audience.
If you’re throwing a large event or party to promote your app, it's worth the investment in a Snapchat geofilter. Prices start as low as $5 for 20,000 sq. feet. Gary Vaynerchuk created a geofilter for just $63, and it got almost 230,000 views! That kind of brand awareness is very difficult to get for such a low price through other mediums.
Slack is revolutionizing the way we collaborate and communicate with each other. Over the past year, people have started to make public channels where they can learn from each other.
Slacklist has compiled a list of the most popular Slack channels out there. Some are paid, but most are free. You need to get your application accepted, and the channel is heavily moderated so make sure you are contributing to the conversation and helping others with their problems as well.
Startup.chat is one of the most popular startup slack channels. It cost a one-time fee of $29 to get in, but it is filled with entrepreneurs, investors, and press. This isn’t the best place to cold pitch your product, but it's a great place to get advice from other entrepreneurs, and maybe even earn press mentions.
Forums like Quora are great places to leave valuable feedback, answers, and commentary to important conversations. Quora allows you to search through questions people have asked about certain topics. If your app can solve their problem or answer their question, you should mention it! Thanks to its popularity, Quora ranks on the first page of Google for many search terms, so by providing valuable responses you may be able to drive a lot of traffic to your site.
There’s a great “Guide for Newbies” that can be found here.
Quora is more respected than Yahoo Answers, but if you see similar questions on both platforms you can simply repeat your answer for both, with no additional work needed.
Apps ranked in the App Store's Top 200 Free Apps chart net an average of 8.5 million daily downloads. It's a tough climb to get to the top, but once you get there, you can obtain consistent growth from organic downloads alone.
The idea behind PPI burst campaigns is to spend a lot of money ($25k-$50k) in a short amount of time (2-5 days), so that your app will rank in the Top Charts. Afterward, you'll hopefully have enough organic downloads that you won’t have to spend more money on paid advertising.
source: App Samurai
The app above ran two burst campaigns over the span of 5 days. You can see that these campaigns increased their daily organic downloads (post-campaign) from 200 to 600.
Many people claim that burst campaigns attract low-quality downloads, but in reality, the goal of these campaigns is not to acquire a lot of paid downloads, but to uplift your organic downloads post-campaign.
App Samurai is a great platform to run your burst campaigns on. They offer you statistics and budget requirements to reach the goals that you set, but you can also run a burst campaign using any of the tactics here. As long as you can create an upward spike in your downloads, you'll see your organic traffic lift.
Apple recently released the ability for advertisers to make search ads in the iPhone App Store. This is a great opportunity for advertisers to target people that have download intent and are looking for a specific type of app.
source: The Verge
The key to successfully using these ads is matching intent. Calendar Z (above) does a great job at this because when people are searching for a calendar app, their app shows up at the top of the list! Another great way to do this is to bid on competitors' names. If their names are a very close match to your app's, you could easily take a decent amount of their traffic.
Facebook video ads are one of the best ways (if not the best way) to get a large audience of people to engage with your ad—at a very low cost. Average CPV (Cost per video view) is only about $0.15. If you create an engaging video that isn’t too long, and you do a good job at targeting people, you can get hundreds or thousands of people interested in your app.
Tip: Make sure your ad is engaging in the first 5 seconds and can work without sound. You'll see a much higher view rate if the video can catch users' interest as they are scrolling. If someone is speaking in your ad, caption it.
Pro Tip: Make a retargeting list of people who saw your video and make an app install campaign targeted only at them. App install cost can be very high if your audience does not already know what your app does.
You’ve probably seen native app advertisements in games and other free apps. Most of them are part of Google’s app affiliate network Admob. When placed in complementary or relevant apps, native ads can drive thousands of quality downloads.
CPI is the average cost per app install. At an average cost of $2.50/install for Android and $1.50/install for iOS, native advertising is cheaper than many other marketing methods.
You can download Google’s guide to native advertising here.
Tip: Don’t over-optimize your campaigns. Admob has a great algorithm that automatically optimizes your campaigns, and if you tweak it too much, the algorithm will not work properly.
Any marketing guide would be faulty if it didn’t mention using Google Adwords. Adwords is how businesses make advertisements that show up at the top of Google’s search results.
The key to making Adwords work for mobile app campaigns is to match your ads to the intent of the search terms coming in. If we use the 7 Minute Workout Challenge app as an example, you'd want to target search terms like “Body Weight Workouts,” “Home Workout Routines,” or “5 Minute Workout." People searching for these terms are likely to be genuinely interested in the 7 Minute Workout Challenge app.
You can find search terms with a high volume by using the Google Keyword Planner.
Tip: Make sure you are only targeting mobile users. There’s no point in paying for clicks on a desktop.
Here’s Google’s guide on how to get the most out of your mobile app install campaigns.
Marketing can take a lot of time. Most mobile founders typically have either a development background or a business background, so it can be difficult to manage complex marketing campaigns at the same time. If you would rather focus on another aspect of your startup, you can hire a professional app marketing agency to take care of marketing for you.
Here are four top mobile app marketing agencies to use:
App Masters is a marketing agency that specializes in “growth hacking the mobile space.” With a strong focus on getting your app discovered, their team offers startups many unique services, such as App Store features, influencer marketing, press outreach and more.
ComboApp is a full-service app marketing agency that helps you optimize every step of the app lifecycle. They have worked with big brands such as Intel, Cox, and SeaWorld.
Consumer Acquisition is a mobile marketing agency focusing on Facebook and Instagram ads. They promote a 90-day growth timeline. They also offer some self-service tools for you to make and optimize Facebook and Instagram app install ads.
Fetch is a mobile marketing agency that places their focus on design and strategy. They aim to create frictionless digital experiences across platforms. Their primary customers have both mobile and web apps, including eBay, Hulu, StubHub, Hotels.com, and more.
Moburst is a global mobile success company that helps leading brands and startups achieve their full potential. They specialize in creating innovative mobile marketing campaigns and App Store Optimization (ASO). Their most notable clients include Google, Fiverr, Sony, and Pfizer.
Push notifications are a great way to re-engage users that have already downloaded your app. You can notify them of fresh content, let them know their cart is still full if they haven’t checked out yet, or inform them about special deals. This will help you decrease user churn, and can even be set up to run programmatically.
If you want to be able to analyze and optimize your push notification campaigns, you should check out our comprehensive buyer's guide to the top 10 push notification platforms here.
Tip: When asking users to enable push notifications, make sure you're providing value to them. If the user blocks push notifications, it's very unlikely they will change their mind in the future.
Deep linking allows customers to go directly to specific pages, or complete specific actions when they click on an external link on their phone. This practice is great for tracking referrals and driving user engagement.
A great example of actionable deep linking can be found in Snapchat, when one user can scan another user’s Snapcode to become friends with them. A recent report cited that 25% of friend requests come through a Snapcode rather than typing in a username.
Here are four channels where you can incorporate deep linking into your marketing strategy:
Almost every app ranked on the Top Charts uses a methodology called the “Hooked Model” to give users an incentive to open and engage with the app multiple times a day. Implement these four essential parts of the model into your app:
Facebook uses this exact model to keep their users coming back:
74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influencing factor in their purchasing decision. Therefore, you need to include a referral program in your app.
Uber incentivizes referrals by providing ride discounts for both the referred user and the person referring them. This has fueled most of their growth and was very successful because they offer both parties a tangible (monetary) reward.
If you're planning to offer a referral program that costs money, it's crucial that the LTV (lifetime value) of your customer is greater than the CAC (customer acquisition cost). Extole goes more into depth on the math here.
You don’t have to rely solely on money to incentivize downloads. Apps like Yo and Houseparty have leveraged social rewards to incentivize referrals. Those startups built apps that are only valuable if you have other friends added on the app. They also make it very easy for users to text a friend a link to download the app.
Regardless of the reward that you're offering, you can use AppVirality as a platform to manage and optimize this referral system. You can analyze the effectiveness of each referral and revenue earned so you can see which offers work best.
App Store reviews can make or break even the best of apps. If you look at the Top Charts in the App Store, apps with fewer than four stars don’t stay around for very long. You can ask people who are using your app for reviews with a simple App Store deep link.
Tip: Only target users that are enjoying your app (people who come back multiple times per week/day), or you may end up asking for reviews from people who don’t actually like your app.
Use Matt Galligan’s article “The right way to ask users to review your app” as a resource to get the most out of your App Store reviews.
If a user can’t find your app in the App Store, then the rest of your marketing efforts are facing a huge uphill battle to drive downloads. That’s why it’s incredibly important to invest time trying to boost your app’s placement in those results.
The key to ASO is to understand your target audience. If you want to increase your download rate, you have to learn how your audience members speak, what words they use to describe things, what they are struggling with, and how to phrase the value that your app can provide them.
Try to find a forum where your audience members are discussing a similar topic to see what words they use and pain points they complain about. Another great way to do this is to look at the reviews of your competitors in the app store. If you know what your target users like and dislike about those apps, you'll know how to describe your app.
Check out Moz’s ASO checklist for more information about the details of app store optimization.
If you want to leave this to the professionals, check out these ASO agencies:
Or you can use AppAnnie, a top-rated, self-service ASO platform.
Get in touch with app review sites that keep their thumbs on the pulse of mobile app development. Once you find a website to work with, you can boost your chances of earning coverage by giving them with a sneak preview of your app before you launch. Review sites love getting exclusive features, so even if you don’t have a well-known brand (yet!), this tactic might get you some higher-quality attention.
Where should you submit?
By submitting your app to various app awards, you’ll get massive exposure, and if you happen to win an award in your category, you’ll get to say you have an award-winning app!
When you fill out the requirements and brief, be compelling. You’ll have a better shot of winning if you set aside an hour or two to craft an attention-grabbing 100-500 words. We’ve developed a few award-winning apps, and these are our top tips to make a great submission package:
Where should you submit your app?
Did you know that the most commonly used user acquisition method for apps is cross-promotion? It’s no surprise because it’s a win-win situation for both parties involved. Don’t just cross-promote with anyone, though! The key to leveraging and winning over the other startup’s audience is by ensuring they share the same target audience as you. For example, if you have an app that is targeted towards yoga instructors, cross-promote with other health and fitness startups.
You can use a bigger network like ChartBoost (games) or Mobfox which lets you secure native advertising placements in return for including other apps' native ad placements in your app. Alternatively, you can independently find other app startups within your niche and form relationships with them. They may not provide you with native ad placements, but an email blast or Facebook post can be just as powerful.
How many emails do you send a day? A free hack that may convert a few of those email recipients into downloads is to place an App Store link in your email signature! If you want to maximize downloads, only include one link to your app (unlike the picture above). If you also want to promote your social media channels, you can include icons that link to those accounts as well. There are no set guidelines for this tactic, but just keep your personal brand in mind when designing your signature.
If you’re not a creative person and are worried that no one will even click on your signature, no worries. Use this email signature design guide as a reference.
Many websites feature an “App of the Day,” and being featured can direct some great traffic to your app. Even if you don't get featured, forming genuine relationships with those websites might come in handy for the future.
Don’t know how to submit your app or increase your chances at securing a feature? Follow these three tips to increase your chances of securing an App of the Day feature:
Where to get featured: